Formulas Don't always Work, but they can sure make us feel like we are accomplishing something!
In this chapter of Desperate, we are touching the issues that so many moms talk about--if I could just find the right book or formula to answer all of my situations. However, this search for the magic bullet can only end in frustration, as God did not design this as the answer to our questions in mothering.
Do you ever have voices in your head?
A good mom would.....fill in the blank.
My children were potty trained by 12 months, and if you were disciplined, you would do the same..
My children never whine, yours always do....
You should keep a cleaner house if you were really committed.
You are too lenient on your children, you need to spank them more.
You are too harsh with your children, and you will cause them to rebel.....
And on and on and on.
I used to hear voices and almost all of them made me feel condemned, as though I wasn't mothering the right way or doing the right things enough.
And then there were these 4 children of mine, differing in personality and different heart issues, different developmental time frames. So many issues that I just thought if I knew the right rule or had a better day timer or the right book or curriculum, I would get it right!
And then with all the letters I receive, there are so many days I would like to be able to offer blanket advice to everyone I meet.
If you do things just so, it will all turn out all right and your children will obey happily and walk with God and never do anything wrong. Wouldn't that be dreamy?
It seems to me that there are many wisdom principles in scripture, but very, very little advice of an exact nature. God is vague on so many issues--intentionally so! He gives us great freedom to live into our own personalities, our own puzzle and to apply wisdom in our own creative ways.
Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying not to train your children. God very specifically gave us so much wisdom to follow and laws that would protect us and guide us--but they were few.
He tells us to speak to our children every day about Him--the great shema of scripture in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
He tells us to train up our children in the way they should go. And evidently a lot of training is just talking--throughout the day according to what the issue of the moment is--at night when they go to bed and are asking questions. In the day when they are learning about work, relationships, truth. We are to have His words on our own heart and then from our heart we will teach them out of a well of wisdom that comes from what our own heart is cherishing--His words. Wisdom personalized every day, according to the need of the moment.
He gives us a commandment to teach our children; that they must honor their mother and father. He tells us in Ephesians to raise up our children in the training and instruction of the Lord.
But He does not ever say, "Spank for 45 minutes. Carry a paddle or switch in your purse to be sure you don't miss any offense or you will be responsible for their demise." (I am so grateful He doesn't correct every single sin or immature act I perform or I would just give up now!)
He doesn't say, "Quiet times are so much more effective before 7 in the morning" or "Women have no ability to teach young men." (Have you seen Proverbs 8 or 9 or read about Timothy?)
Or "You can tell a woman's spirituality by looking at whether their drawers are neat and clean on the inside." (Really? What chapter and verse is that?)
He doesn't even say "All children will learn best if they study Latin or Hebrew." (Whew!)
I often have women who say, "How did you raise your children? What rules did you keep? Why do they love you and love the Lord and how did you teach them to trust you?"
As far as I can tell, scripture tells us that it is faith, not works, that pleases God. (Hebrews 11:6)
Your family is your own particular puzzle. God has given you those children, that husband, that home and community, in this time. And no one else can tell you exactly what you ought to do in it! But He is faithful and He desires to help and instruct you as you walk with Him. A list of rules and regulations to follow--do things this way, every time, with every child, in every circumstance!--would only serve as a separation between you and your need to communicate and obey His personal instructions to you.
We have great freedom in Christ. Don't give it up for a yoke of slavery to any thing, any one, or any set of rules! Being a great mom is not about rules or formula--it is more like a dance--moving to the rhythms of life, listening and paying attention to the mood of the music in your children's lives and choreographing wisdom as the words to the song.
Your God is truly bigger than a rule, wilder and cannot be tamed and He wants us to walk this adventure by faith and celebrating life within the bounds of our own personalities and those of our husbands and children.
Look for His voice, not the voices of others, and you will find yourself growing in contentment, grace and even joy.
What are some of the formulas you have followed that have led to legalism?
What area do you most wish you had a formula to apply?
Do you struggle with "the voices"? How do you replace these voices with real wisdom?